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Nothing can prepare you for the mammoth scope of Canyonlands. It mocks your tiny size and your weak little body. In point of fact, it does not care whether you exist at all. It has stood for millions upon millions of years, thrust upwards in a time before mammals even existed.
Canyonlands, like Arches, is filled with “geological anomalies.” One of the craziest of these is “Upheaval Dome” which looks like a massive crater with a mountain growing inside. Scientists speculate that it is either salt crushing upwards out of the rock or that it is the remnant of a killer meteor.
Canyonlands National Park is separated into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the Rivers. The most accessible, featuring a number of dramatic vistas and knee-shaking cliffs, is Island in the Sky, a broad mesa, 1,000 feet high, separated from the mainland by a narrow land-bridge. The rock was carved through millions of years by high speed winds that still slice through your clothes. The Island in the Sky district is only 30 minutes from Moab, yet it feels isolated and desolate. Another 3 hours south of Moab is The Needles, which lies at the other end of the vastness pictured at the top. It is named for tall spires that point out of the rocky floor of the canyon. The Colorado and Green Rivers run through the base of the canyons. The Maze is one of the most inaccessible places in the United States, requiring serious MacGuyver survival skills to penetrate. Lacking survival skills of any kind, let alone those of the Duct tape + Condom + vinegar = explosion variety, we kept to Island in the Sky.
We camped nearby at a BLM site. We had collected supplies from Moab, and felt confident of our chances in a fight against nature. However, our first Man v. Wild challenge soon appeared. How does one start a fire in 15 mile an hour wind? In the end, the soup was eaten only slightly warm.
As many of you know, while working on the Obama campaign I lived in a tent above the Pontiac field office. Granted, the tent was set up inside the living room of a two-bedroom apartment one floor above. Still, this little green tent has defeated John McCain. We questioned whether it could stand up to the winds of Canyonlands. At night it felt like a haunting. The wind bashed against the sides of the little green tent, demanding entry into our warm abode. Several times I awoke with a start, having dreamt that some mad Utahan was attempting to force his way inside. It was only the wind.
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